Caregiving Dementia Memory support

Supporting a family member through Alzheimer’s Disease

Supporting a family member with Alzheimer’s disease can be challenging, both emotionally and practically. Alzheimer’s is a progressive neurological disorder that affects memory, cognition, and behavior, and it can be difficult for both the individual with Alzheimer’s and their caregivers. Here are some tips to help you provide support:

  1. Educate Yourself: there are many resources that will help you learn about Alzheimer’s disease, its progression, and its symptoms. Understanding the condition will help you provide better care and manage your expectations. This is a great resource from the Alzheimer’s Association.
  2. Open Communication: Maintain open and honest communication with your family members, even as their condition progresses. Be patient and understanding if they repeat themselves or have difficulty expressing themselves.
  3. Create a Safe Environment: Ensure their living space is safe and comfortable. Remove tripping hazards, install handrails, and consider locks or alarms on doors if wandering is a concern.
  4. Establish a Routine: People with Alzheimer’s often feel more comfortable with routines. Establish a daily schedule for meals, activities, and bedtime to provide structure. 
  5. Encourage Independence: Allow your loved one to do as much as they can for themselves, even if it takes more time or results in minor mistakes. This fosters a sense of accomplishment and independence.
  6. Provide Nutritious Meals: Ensure they have a balanced diet. Prepare foods they enjoy and can easily eat. Be mindful of dietary restrictions or allergies.
  7. Medication Management: Help them manage their medications, ensuring they take them as prescribed. Consider using a pill organizer. 
  8. Engage in Cognitive Activities: Encourage cognitive stimulation through activities like puzzles, games, or reminiscing. This can help maintain mental function.
  9. Stay Active: Encourage regular physical activity appropriate to their abilities. Simple exercises or walks can be beneficial for both physical and mental health.
  10. Seek Support: Caregiving can be emotionally draining. Don’t hesitate to seek support from friends, family, or support groups. You can also consider professional help from therapists or counselors.
  11. Respite Care: Arrange for respite care to give yourself a break when needed. Caregiver burnout is a real concern, and taking care of your own well-being is crucial. Chandler Hall offers Respite Care for this purpose.
  12. Legal and Financial Planning: Ensure that legal and financial matters, such as power of attorney and advance directives, are in place to make future decisions easier.
  13. Patience and Compassion: Alzheimer’s can be frustrating, but try to remain patient and empathetic. Remember that the person you’re caring for is still the same person they’ve always been, despite the disease. 
  14. Adapt as Needed: Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, and your loved one’s needs will change over time. Be prepared to adapt your caregiving approach and seek additional help as needed.
  15. Plan for the Future:  As the disease progresses, consider long-term care options such as assisted living or nursing homes. These decisions can be difficult, but planning ahead can make the transition smoother. 

Remember that Alzheimer’s caregiving is a journey, and it’s essential to take care of your own physical and emotional well-being. Seek help when needed, and don’t hesitate to reach out to healthcare professionals for guidance and support. Your efforts can significantly improve the quality of life for your loved one with Alzheimer’s.

Chandler Hall will partner with you to walk through the Journey of Aging. We offer a safe and secure Memory Care residence as well as Caregiver Support Groups for families with Alzheimer’s. If you need Respite Care, please reach out to us at 215-651-3618 for a tour of Chandler Hall. 

Caregiving Dementia Family Stories Memory care

Why Caregiver Support Groups are Important

The diagnosis of a progressive disease can be overwhelming. There are so many factors to consider – right from the start – that it can lead to a mix of emotions from feelings of confusion, helplessness and even anger. What should I do? What do I do first? What if I am wrong about  _____________ ? You fill in the blank. 

 Let’s be honest about this. For most of us, these are uncharted waters. Even if you are a medical professional or you have cared for a loved one in the past, the information changes so fast and is so specific to the diagnosis that it can feel like you need a crash course in the disorder. And – there is the fact that everything is different when it’s someone that you love. 

This may be one of those cases where “going it alone” is not advised. Being able to check in with a support group who understands your role can prove to be one of the best tools that you have. You can get information, support and even validation that you are doing everything that you can to help your loved one receive the best care possible.

Support Groups Are People Who Understand

tional Institute of Health, support groups have a proven benefit to caregivers and patients alike.  Programs designed to support caregivers of people with Alzheimer’s disease (AD) or other diagnosis of dementia can help improve the quality of life for the caregivers and delay nursing home placement of the patients, two new studies have found. Plus, it also helps reduce the incidence of depression and feelings of being burdened for caregivers.

Getting More Information From Those that Know

A good support group focused on your needs or topic can provide a wealth of information from people who have experienced what you are experiencing. The folks in the group have the time to be able to truly listen to your concerns and may even be able to steer you toward additional resources that can help you fulfill your needs or perhaps gain a sense of perspective. 

Emotional Support

– Support groups by their very name offer emotional support to their members. Sometimes just knowing that there are other people that you can talk to – who have experienced what you are experiencing is comforting and can help you feel less “on your own”. 

Additional Resources

Support groups are frequently moderated by the subject matter experts such as the Alzheimer’s Association , American Stroke Association , Parkinson’s Foundation  as well as the Silver Century Foundation,  a group that addresses topics surrounding aging and the many forms of dementia.

Reduce Anxiety, Stress and Social Isolation

A recent survey by AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) found that family caregivers in the US were more likely to report loneliness in comparison with those in midlife or older people who were not family caregivers (prevalence of 42% compared to 34%).

Factors related to the caregiving role, such as caregiving stress, also increased the likelihood of experiencing loneliness. Shrunken personal space and diminished social circles caused by the demands of caregiving contribute to the feelings of loss both in terms of the diminished social capacity of the patient but also by the loss of outside social relationships. 

The introduction of a support group creates and supports an expanded social circle that understands the limitations of intense caregiving. And while family and friends may be a comforting presence, their focus is typically on the care recipient and on the caregiver to a lesser extent. The support group offers the caregiver a safe environment in which to bounce off ideas, gain information, hear the latest news or to just plain vent in a non-judgemental forum.

Find the Support Group that Fits Your Needs

There are support groups that fit virtually everyone’s needs. As a by-product of Coronavirus protocols, virtual support groups have taken a very prominent place in caregiver support. 

There are now many virtual forums where folks can gather on one of the on-line meeting platforms to meet, form relationships, and seek information and reassurance. In the Bucks County/Philadelphia area, those looking for a forum that focuses on Memory Care and the many forms of dementia can dial into one of the area’s pre-eminent experts. Maggie Sullivan of the Silver Century Foundation has devoted her life to helping those who help Alzheimer’s patients. 

Maggie will be conducting a Caregiver’s Support Group at Chandler Hall, the first Friday of every month from 1:30-3:30p.  Maggie is also providing a free, virtual support group on the first Wednesday of every month. Click here to learn more.

Remember – we are all overwhelmed at times. But when we take advantage of the resources that are available to us, we become smarter and maybe a little better able to recommit ourselves to our role as caregiver to those who need us. We hope to see you at Maggie Sullivan’s Caregiver Forum.

Join our Caregiver Support Group

If you are caring for someone with dementia, or if you’re worried a family member is showing signs of Alzheimer’s or other dementia illnesses, consider joining our Caregiver Support Groups. Led by Maggie Sullivan, our groups meet on the first Wednesday of every month online, and the first Friday of every month in person at the Wright Meeting Room on our campus from 1:30 – 3:30 pm. Just click the button below and find out how to sign up. You’ll meet others also caregiving for people in similar circumstances, and learn ways to make this journey easier for everyone.

Click here to learn more

Dementia Memory care

The Dementia Journey

Dementia now requires more supervision than you can provide. What do you do? That is the question faced by thousands of caregivers every day. And there is no easy answer and no easy decision.

Understanding the Options- and the Journey Ahead

The best thing you can do is to try to understand options that may be available to you and your family. And to truly understand all of your options, it is important to know the possible cause of the signs of dementia, the expected progression of the disease and how your loved one can remain safe and cared for. In short – there is no easy answer but knowing your options can help you formulate a plan. And knowledge is power – even when we talk about dementia.

I’ve Rationalized Long Enough

There comes a time when an uncomfortable feeling that you have becomes a talking point in family conversations. 

“I drove with Dad to the post office and he completely forgot where it was.” “I know, he did that with me when we went to Uncle Peter’s house.”

Or, “Mom just bought an extended car warranty – again!” 

These interactions can be excused away for a time – but as the frequency of occurrence increases it becomes clear that a different level of care or supervision is needed. 

It is important to understand the levels of dementia.

Mild Dementia

In this early stage of dementia, an individual can function rather independently, and often is still able to drive and maintain a social life. Symptoms may be attributed to the normal process of aging. There might be slight lapses in memory, such as misplacing eyeglasses or having difficulty finding the right word. Other difficulties may include issues with planning, organizing, concentrating on tasks, or accomplishing tasks at work. This early stage of dementia, on average, lasts between 2 and 4 years.

Moderate Dementia

In this middle stage of dementia, often the longest stage of the disease, brain damage causes a person to have difficulty expressing thoughts and performing daily tasks. Memory issues are more severe than in the earlier stage. Someone in this stage might forget their address, be unable to recall personal history, and become confused about where they are. Communication becomes harder. The individual may lose track of thoughts, may be unable to follow conversations, and may have trouble understanding what others are saying. Mood and behavior changes—including aggressivenessdifficulty sleepingdepression, paranoia, repeating actions or words, hoarding, wandering, and incontinence—may be seen. This moderate stage of dementia, on average, lasts between 2 and 10 years.

Severe Dementia

In late-stage dementia, also known as advanced dementia, individuals have significant issues with communication. They may not verbally communicate at all. Memory also worsens, and individuals may not be able to remember what they had for lunch. They might forget family members’ names. It’s possible they may think they are in a different time period altogether and revert back to their childhood days. It may be too difficult to walk, and extensive help is needed for daily living activities, including personal hygiene and eating. At the end of this stage, the individual will most likely be bedridden. This severe stage of dementia lasts approximately 1 to 3 years.

Levels of Care

Deciding on the level of care that is right for your loved one is important. But it is important to remember that the progression of dementia has its own timeline based on many factors. The general health of the patient plays an enormous part in the progression of the disease, as does the type of dementia, prognosis, amount of mental and physical stimulation and living environment. 

Finding the right “care fit” requires a certain flexibility and watchful eye on the patient’s needs at any given time. An individual might not require a specific care scenario in the early stages of dementia as “day” help and family oversight can frequently provide enough care and coverage to ensure safety and well-being for a period of time until symptoms worsen. However, as the progression of the disease advances, it is important to understand the appropriate options and levels of care available for your loved one. 

Personal Care or Assisted Living in Early Stages

Assisted living residences combine room and board with medical and personal care, and are often sufficient for someone in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease or related dementia. Full-time supervision means residents are safe, with living units like private studios or apartments so someone with mild dementia can still feel a sense of independence.

Services offered typically include meals, help with activities of daily living (ADLs), social activities, and transportation to and from doctor’s appointments. Before moving in, the residence will assess your loved one to make sure it’s a good fit.

Memory Care in Middle to Late Stages

Some residences offer Memory Care. Memory care is better for someone in the middle stages of dementia, when independence has become more difficult. Memory Care can be a wing or special section of assisted living, or there are stand-alone memory care homes. These are more appropriate for people past the earliest stages because staff is trained specifically to communicate with and care for people whose needs are particular to dementia. Speaking with someone who has dementia requires careful technique. Similarly, activities for people with dementia are more considerate of the participants’ ability (or inability) to function and understand.

Memory Care residences have physical designs that are appropriate for people with dementia. Residents are encouraged to decorate their “homes” or apartments in close approximation to the home that they left. Creating a familiar layout and placing loved pictures and objects in their new living situation helps to make for a smooth transition. Memory Care residences offer a safe environment. Because people with dementia are prone to wander, memory care residences have increased security and supervision. 

Doing Your Homework Early

No one likes to think of what “might” happen. Our eternally optimistic selves like to focus on “beating the odds” or creating the best outcome by ourselves. But when it comes to the health of our loved ones, knowing what may lie ahead – just in case – is the smart thing to do. In fact, studies show us that transitioning to Memory Care during the moderate stage of dementia leads to easier adjustments for both the resident and family. 

The Memory Care team at Chandler Hall has devoted years and thousands of hours of expertise to helping folks with memory needs transition from a challenging life at home to a secure and fulfilling life of Person-Centered Care.


Transitioning into Memory Care

Remember when you moved into your first apartment? I remember being alternately excited and nervous. My fear and anxiety were mostly that I had never lived on my own before. But I was young and had confidence in my ability to “figure things out” and had my family who could back me up if I needed it.

Now take this same scenario but fast forward 40 or 50 years, and the excitement and anticipation that I once felt about moving has given way to an altogether different point of view. My previous desire to “go out and find myself and set the world on fire” has given way to the feeling that “my world is just fine” and “I am more than happy to stay put with what I know, my things and my memories.” The only problem is that It keeps getting harder to do just that.

As I make every effort to hang on to my life the way I know it, I also know that my confidence is a little shaky because I seem to forget things. My parents are long gone, but I do have adult children and nieces and nephews who can help me out – if they have the time. I don’t like to bother them. And I have a few medical conditions that I am having trouble staying on top of – I can never remember if I took my medication. But that is not too serious – Is it?

I know that I should probably move into a smaller place or get some help but all of my memories are here where I am living now. I really don’t want to move to a care home. I hope my memory doesn’t get worse. This fear of moving or relocating is real. It affects people of all ages but is especially difficult for seniors or folks suffering from the early stages of dementia. It is called Relocation Stress Syndrome.

Relocation Stress Syndrome

Tracy Greene Mintz, LCSW, a nationally recognized expert in relocation stress syndrome, characterizes the syndrome as a cluster of symptoms that can occur in anyone who moves from one environment to another, whether a child who has to change schools or an adult who transfers to a new job in a new city. Symptoms of Relocation Stress Syndrome can include irritability, anger, and anxiety, among others. Those most at risk for transfer trauma are individuals with Alzheimer’s/dementia who move from their home into a long term care community and for those who move within a community from one level of care to another. These folks often still feel capable of living at home and resist making change, as well as having difficulty adjusting to change. They frequently lack the insight to know that they are at risk and lack the objectivity to make decisions regarding their care or living situation.

Adding confusion to the decision-making process is that in the early stages of dementia and even after, persons with dementia retain strong long-term memory, but their limitations in short-term memory and new learning memory disrupt their ability to cope with change. If they’ve lived in their own home their entire lives, they feel secure and comfortable, and familiarity allows them to have some independence. A move erodes their comfort and confidence. The unknown and the unfamiliar may cause fear and anxiety that may remain until they are able to forge new relationships, get better acquainted with a different physical environment, and gradually adjust to change.

Tips for Successful Transitions

It is important to recognize that each person’s transition to a new living situation will be different, depending on the reasons for the move and how much the person moving is able to consent or help facilitate the move. But when a move is in the best interests of you or your loved one, these few tips will help make the transition easier.

  • Do your homework and make sure that the community that is chosen is the best possible one for your loved one. Make sure that you fully understand the policies and procedure for move in, visitation, meals, security and stimulating activities. Having a comfort level that you have made the right choice is important for everyone’s peace of mind.
  • Try to avoid telling your loved one that they need more help. Many people needing memory care h-ve no idea that they need memory care. To suggest that they do will enlist a combative response. Offer limited choices and avoid open-ended questions such as “Do you think that you are doing fine here at home?” Remember, the typical response will be “Of course!”.
  • Attempt to recreate familiar surroundings. Recreating the home environment helps to reduce confusion and agitation. Make sure that your care community knows all of your loved one’s likes and dislikes – what TV programs are part of their regular routine – favorite foods, clothing and the like. It has been observed that certain TV programs at certain times of day can help to “signal” mealtime which can prove a valuable aid to keeping up with nutrition. 
  • Include Things to Feel at Home. Also a home-like environment that incorporates many of your loved one’s personal items may help to minimize “wandering” in those with advanced dementia as folks like to stay with what is familiar and known.
  • Keep it Familiar One of the best tips we have gotten from people who help with senior moves is to take photographs of the cupboards in the kitchen and where things are, and do the same for the bathroom and bedroom. And to the extent possible, recreate the environments and placement of things like drinking glasses and silverware, towels and toothbrushes, and clothing in the same place in the new apartment that they were at home.  That will help the person accommodate to their new home with less stress about everything “Being in the wrong place.”
  • Work with your Counselors and Memory Care staff to help ease the Transition. It is important to remember that everyone is going through this transition together. Family members can offer invaluable insight into managing certain behaviors. And Caregivers will keep families abreast of any new developments. Taking a “team” approach to Memory Care is a welcome and standard approach in many communities. 

In the southern Bucks County area of Pennsylvania, Chandler Hall goes through an extensive process to discover each and every resident’s likes and dislikes as well as understand the whole person – their past selves as well as their current self. Discovering and maintaining connections is an important part of resident care. 

Those initial few weeks after move-in to Memory Care are difficult for everyone. That is why it is important to the Caregivers at Chandler Hall that families know that they are not alone. Each family is introduced to Maggie Sullivan’s dementia support group Silver Century Foundation, one of the preeminent voices on Alzheimer’s Disease and dementia of all kinds.

There is No Rule Book

The journey through Memory Care is a difficult one to plan. There is no real “normal”. We always like to think that our case will be the exception to the rule. And sometimes it is. But often the decisions that we make early on in the process are the ones that set the tone for a smooth transition or a more difficult one. Always remember that information is power.

There is No Rule Book

The journey through Memory Care is a difficult one to plan. There is no real “normal”. We always like to think that our case will be the exception to the rule. And sometimes it is. But often the decisions that we make early on in the process are the ones that set the tone for a smooth transition or a more difficult one. Always remember that information is power.

Dementia Memory care

When it comes to Memory Care, Action is Everything

There are few of us past the age of 60 who don’t feel a little tinge of anxiety over mislaid keys or a forgotten name. It’s really not about those missteps, is it though? It’s about the nagging feeling that it could be something more than something slipping your mind. Deep down inside, we all worry that any of these common missteps could be a sign of early dementia. While the occasional grasping for a name that should be on the tip of our tongue is not necessarily cause for worry, it’s a good thing to know when we should begin to pay attention and maybe think about what we can do to help keep our brains as sharp as they can be.

Pay Attention to the Troubling Signs

Early dementia is difficult to diagnose. Quite simply, many of the early signs can also be attributed to stress, reactions to medication, and having too much to do on our plate. But it’s important to note when mistakes or missteps begin to outweigh the times when you are feeling sharp and in command. When you start to ask whether you should be concerned- or if a friend or family member mentions something- that’s the time to simply do a check-in appointment to see your family doctor for a medical and cognitive evaluation. It may be something as simple as a medication change or having some basic tests done to make sure everything is ok- but without this check-in, you’ll never know for sure.

But it’s not bad, so why worry?

While there are now several promising medications that may help or even delay cognitive decline, they are only really helpful in the earliest stages of cognitive change. Because so many people put off addressing these subtle changes until much later on, they often miss the window to delay the progression of Alzheimer’s or other dementia-related illnesses until there’s very little treatment available to change the course of the disease.  That’s why keeping an eye on concerning changes as we age is an important first step to being proactive in maintaining brain health. 

Understanding More About Dementia/Cognitive Changes

Short Term Memory Loss

While this is one of the most prevalent and worrying early signs of dementia, short-term memory loss can also be caused by some of the factors mentioned above. It is important to note that some memory loss is actually age-appropriate.  In fact, many women experience a bit of this during perimenopause and menopause, due to hormonal changes. 

Age-appropriate memory loss  looks like forgetting what you were going to say but remembering it a few minutes later – or making an occasional small financial mistake or forgetting to pay a bill on time. Even momentarily forgetting the names of one of your friends or grandchildren can feel like you are missing a step. These one-off or occasional occurrences may feel concerning, but may be entirely appropriate for your age. 

Basic good health advice is good brain health advice. Getting enough rest, eating well, and exercising regularly are all steps that can help you feel better and keep your brain healthier as well.

But if you are still feeling troubled and would like to be proactive in helping to keep your “brain healthy”,  research has shown that certain “brain exercises”  can help to boost your memory.

Brain Healthy Activities

The simple act of reading can keep your short term memory exercised and help keep you mentally sharp and informed. According to a study published in JAMA in 2018, Dementia risk was significantly lower among those who reported daily participation in intellectual activities, like reading books, magazines, and newspapers, as well as playing board games. The benefits of intellectual activity were independent of other health problems, lifestyle factors (fruit and vegetable intake, exercise, smoking, etc.), demographics and socioeconomic status, according to researchers.

Easy ways to stimulate your brain health are to subscribe to periodicals that make you consider and think. Or join a book club. If you are not a “joiner”, there are now many on-line game options like backgammon, mahjong and other activities that stimulate your memory, recall and strategic thinking skills.

Other Concerning Signs to Track

Other early warning symptoms for cognitive decline may include self-isolation, agitation and confusion- all of these can creep up on a person. They tend to be written off as “having a bad day or in a bad mood”. But if the “bad days” begin to outnumber the good days – it may be a sign of early dementia. 

For example, mental confusion can range from a bit of cloudiness to a constant state of mental disarray. A commonly reported symptom of confusion is the inability to match a face with a name. Confusion may also cause a person to use poor judgment. In some cases, a person with dementia may cease to interact with people, withdrawing from activities they once enjoyed.

Again, we all can have moments when a name is just beyond our grasp or we fail to understand what is going on, but if you feel that your ability to correctly judge a situation is happening more often or that you or your loved one is increasingly unable to function independently, then a proper and complete evaluation is the necessary next step.

Deciding on a Care Plan

If after a medical evaluation you find that you or your loved one is truly experiencing the signs of dementia, it is important to make a care plan early on in the process. Making a care plan early on in the process while the patient can participate in the planning helps both the patient and family understand the potential progression of the disease. But more importantly it helps both patient and family create a plan that they are actually able to execute. 

Discussions about advanced care planning are sensitive in nature and may need the input of specialists. So many factors need to go into a care plan that the active participation of potential caregivers, care recipient, financial advisor and your medical team are all critically important to planning for the best possible outcome for both the patient and family. Plus, being able to understand how the disease progression may impact the ability of the patient to receive care at home and for how long, from family members is important to know up front. 

There are many care options available from home care with the assistance of family members and experienced home health care aids, to Personal Care living situations and Memory Care communities like Chandler Hall located in lovely Newtown, in Lower Bucks County, PA. Chandler Hall  specializes in early and late-stage dementia care. What’s more, Chandler Hall’s Quaker-based Person-Centered Care staff is experienced in Memory Care, even at early stages when people are living independently in our residentia living and personal care residences, honoring the person within no matter what stage they are in their life’s journey. The caring team at Chandler Hall is committed to reinforcing the link to the individual – the person within. It is the Chandler Hall way.

Action is Everything

When talking about the potential for Memory Care, action is sometimes hard to take. Our innate sense of optimism and desire to carry on as we have been sometimes works against our best choices for a better outcome. But if you feel that you would like to have a conversation with a caring person who can help you sort out your options, I urge you to contact our experts here Chandler Hall. Just email Jeanene Reigel- Palmer at or give us a call at 267-291-2302. We’ll be happy to help you process your concerns and help you formulate a plan for your next steps. Difficult discussions are never easy. But they can be made easier with the help of a caring and knowledgeable professional. Our goal is to help families navigate the journey, and understand all the options and the road ahead to make the choice that’s best for your family.

Need More Information About Memory Care?

Just click the button below to download our free guide, Navigating The Journey of Memory Care, to help you understand the complexities of the cognitive changes that occur, where you can get evaluations, and helpful information for families and caregivers about ways to support those experiencing cognitive changes.